CHRISTIE/CARR SCATTERGORIES

Omigosh! I am so sorry, people! I was supposed to post this yesterday, as JJ so graciously reminded me this morning. (“Hey, um . . . so are you gonna post, or what?”) My excuse is that I’ve spent the weekend at work, producing the spring play. But here you go, as promised: the sequel to last week’s Christie/Carr smackdown over at The Invisible Event.

Last week saw the culmination of several months of intense, focused debate between JJ, the inimitable FOC (Fan of Carr) and myself, an equally fervent FOCH (Fan of Christie) as we discussed the merits of two top titles selected by hundreds of thousands of polled fans. If you missed it, here’s the link to JJ’s entry at The Invisible Event.

And that was it.

But it was not enough. It is never enough.

So I asked JJ if we could avoid the appearance of anti-climax (or, perhaps, define the very meaning of anti-climax) by doing a follow-up. (I whined quite a bit about wanting to host!) At first, we considered creating our own “Top Ten” lists for both authors. But no! Everybody does Top Ten Lists. Top Ten Lists are boring, and we are never boring! We are Mavericks of the Blogosphere!

Plus, neither one of us could make up his mind over his Top Ten List.

Thus we came up with a variation: a list of signifiers that amused us – a sort of Christie/Carr Scattergories Game, if you will. Below, you will find what each of us came up with: JJ has crafted his selections around Carr, while my choices hail from Dame Agatha’s canon. We have supplied brief commentary about our choices, and I hope we prove controversial enough to prompt passionate conversation!

Okay, I’m turning this over to JJ for his thoughts on the Master of the Locked Room Mystery . . .

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JJ’S CARR LIST

1) Most overrated novel

 {85A637C8-15E3-4C7F-8C7D-5D224171447E}Img400Now, look. I don’t dislike The Judas Window (1938), but I do feel it peaks in the middle, and there’s one huge aspect of the solution of the locked room stabbing that I’m quite gigantically uncomfortable with. The unqualified praise it gets seems to ignore all this – yes, I know it’s practically a blueprint for a locked room novel, and about the purest, most “locked” locked room in many ways – but I’d like someone, just every once in a while, to go “Oh, wait, hang on, that bit at the end where…that’s kinda…I mean, woo, that’s just wrong!” and I’d be happy.

Oh, I know, The Hollow Man, aka The Three Coffins (1935) receives so much praise that it’s never going to live up to all the hype, but everyone piles on The Hollow Man, and we tend to overlook the fact that it is actually a masterpiece because it’s such an easy target.

2) Most underrated novel

 7339582There are seven or eight ‘major’ Carrs – you know the ones I mean – leaving about 90% of his output under-discussed and under-appreciated, and there are easily 30 or 40 books there to choose from. I’m going for The Punch and Judy Murders, aka The Magic Lantern Murders (1936) because it starts amazingly with H.M. telegraphing a groom the night before his wedding telling him to travel to Devon and get involved in smoking out some shenanigans, and from there barely pauses for breath.

The first two-thirds is like the best Hitchcock film ever made, and the final third shows how many clues and wrinkles Carr worked into the chase. So much is done so easily in the first two chapters that when the plot really starts piling up there’s barely time to blink, and the couple of sizeable coincidences actually sort of work with how surprise after surprise after surprise gets thrown at you along the way. And it contains two of the best jokes in the whole of the Golden Age, too. It’s absolutely brilliant, and deserves to be better known.

3) The novel containing the best hook

 

Urf – again, so, so many, not least the plethora of impossible setups that have you scratching your head. But there’s something about four people sat around a dinner table, three of them poisoned into immobility and with – variously – several watches, the parts of an alarm clock, and a bottle of poison (not used to poison them) on their persons while the fourth has been stabbed through the back that speaks to something very base in the nature of what I look for in this kind of book. Not least because the explanations initially offered for those items are both plausible and, you know damn well, complete equine-poop. And it only gets crazier from there… The book? Death in Five Boxes (1938), and you’re welcome.

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 4) The novel containing the best murder method

When you get down to it, it’s actually quite surprising just how many of Carr’s victims are dispatched by stabbing, shooting or poisoning. Sure, the delivery of that stab, shot or poison is amazing (c.f. The Red Widow Murders (1935), The Man Who Could Not Shudder (1940), etc.) but the method remains fairly conventional. For sheer originality – even if its efficacy is doubtful, I know – The Case of the Constant Suicides (1941) takes some topping. It’s also prepared for in the most fabulously memorable-yet-subtle way…how in the hell he waves that in your face and you still miss it is beyond me…

5) The novel containing the best motive

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I have to be honest, I’m usually pretty lousy with recalling motives. With Carr there’s so much else going on that the motive is often the first thing I forget. I do, however, love the layering of misdirection that obfuscates the motive in Till Death Do Us Part (1944). Seen as a series of mini-dramas, each with its own motive, it’s a wonderful series of imbrications built around a very simple central, final intent.

And, you didn’t ask, but He Who Whispers (1946) might be the worst motive I’ve encountered so far in Carr. Looking at it last week really made me sit up when I realised how thin it was (and, yes, I forgot to mention this at the time…).

6) The novel containing the most stunning surprise ending

She Died a Lady (1943). There’s nothing to discuss. Just read it and be blown away.

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7) The most Christie-like Carr

 We need to shy away from impossibilities here and look at pure misdirection amidst seemingly normal occurrences, which is undoubtedly what Dame Agatha brought to the genre in spades. The Eight of Swords (1934) has lots of tiny little inverted moments that sparkle with Christie’s brand of ingenuity – a man who knocks on the door of a house when he could just walk up the outside staircase to visit its occupant, doors and windows left wide open during a storm, the complete disinterest displayed when the lights go out, the thing with the speaking tube – and pulls out an absolute kicker of a revelation at the end, too. The criminology-obsessed bishop, too, is a nice riff on a similar thread from Murder on the Links (1924), and I think Christie would have played it in pretty much the exact same way.

It also has an air of archness, with the author Henry Morgan – writer of detective novels under one name and bodice-rippers under another – that feels so like something out of a Christie book in its discussion of writing detective fiction and the shortcomings of other authors in the same genre (all very good-natured, of course). There are Bishops and Chief Constables all over the place, very much the milieu in which Christie was most comfortable, and the resolution of the poltergeist thread feels so very Christie-esque in its off-handedness and lightness that it’s easy to recommend this to any Christie fans looking for a place to start with Carr.

8) The one you should avoid (unless you’re a purist and/or like to suffer . . . )

 md276386242Accepted wisdom says that both Carr and Christie declined as their years wore on, he not least on account of a stroke suffered in 1963 and she from declining mental health (it is widely suspected). Kicking their late work feels kinda harsh in these circumstances, but Papa La-Bas (1968) is difficult to defend. Possibly there are worse books in that tail end, but most of them are on my TBR, and this is the one I’d shy away from myself. I fact, I’m tempted to have a look at it again just to examine how it goes so wrong…

 

 

9) The Carr that Christie would have made better if she had written it

 930183The Blind Barber (1934), no question. The appearance of a dead body on a cruise without anyone apparently going missing is at heart a sharp and cleverly plotted gem, but Carr gets waaaay too bogged down in unfunny japes and ridiculous broad ‘comedy’. Christie would tighten up the middle section, remove the pointless and over-ripe situational humour, and throw in some overlapping narratives for good measure, and the solution could easily come from her own box of tricks.

It’s probably no coincidence that this is the book which preceded The Eight of Swords, as I think this era is where these two were their closest. Christie had taken the puzzle novel to a new art form by now, and Carr was a quick learner, so played around with those conventions before going absolutely stratospheric the following year. Tonally they diverge at an astonishing rate after this, and it would have been great if they collaborated around this time – goddamn, what a book that would have been.

10) The one you must read in your lifetime even if you only read one Carr 

The Problem of the Green Capsule (1939) – simply the finest detective novel ever written, so simple and so complex and so beautifully stacked with every single kind of surprise and misdirection, there almost doesn’t seem to be enough book to contain it all.

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Sometimes an author’s quote unquote best novel isn’t the only one you should read – I don’t agree with Brad’s choice for this question regarding Christie, for instance, because I think that book lacks huge swathes of what made her so brilliant – but I guess this is why we tend to read more than one book when we enjoy an author, hey? Good luck reading Green Capsule and stopping there, at any rate…

Thanks, JJ, for your thoughtful and insightful responses . . . even though #1 is wrong, wrong, wrong!! (Judas Window gooooood! Hollow Man feh!) But I won’t comment anymore; I’ll let our readers decide.

 Moving on, I offer my choices for the Mistress of Mystery . . .

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BRAD’S CHRISTIE LIST

1)Most overrated novel

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Yes, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926) is the one that changed everything! Yes, up till now, Christie was a fine but fairly conventional mystery writer, stuck in a lousy contract with a lousy publisher, and who knows what would happened if she hadn’t written this gem.

Except . . . it’s really not that thrilling a book. Oh, it’s a perfectly respectable 1920’s British village mystery, but really, there’s nothing to set it apart from hundreds of perfectly respectable British village mysteries like it . . . until Christie does that thing she does . . . you know, that part . . . oh dear, I’m trying to avoid spoilers. One can certainly admire how well she does it: how she expertly weaved her clues into the narrative . . . but then one has to ask exactly why the killer left those clues behind.

2) Most underrated novel

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People tend to laud Death Comes As the End (1945) for the extensive amount of research Christie did in order to create a whodunit set in ancient Egypt . . . and then they forget about it. It is considered one of the first, if not the first, historical mystery, yet Robert Barnard dismissed it as “Hercule Poirot’s Christmas transported to Egypt, ca 2000 B.C. Done with tact, yet the result is somehow skeletal . . .” It shares, along with And Then There Were None and Murder Is Easy, the highest body count and, admittedly, fewer instances of actual detection of alibis or clues. What it also does is portray the disintegration of a family under stress as accurately as it does the working household of an Egyptian scribe. And it is an exciting book, with many frightening scenes. The moments just before Satipy and Henet’s murders are genuinely creepy, as is the revelation of the killer.

3) The novel containing the best hook

I went around and around with this one! Christie’s entire canon is an object lesson at how to rope the reader in! Think of all the amazing first chapters you’ve read: the scatty relative at the funeral dropping the bomb that the deceased was murdered; the little old lady witnessing a murder through the window of the opposite passing train; an opening sentence like, “You do see, don’t you, that she’s got to be killed!” The list goes on and on.

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With so much to choose from, I selected a hook where everything that comes after lives up to it! A Murder Is Announced (1950) provides one with an excellent opener that is consummate Christie: steeped in her genteel reality, brimming with humor, and yet quietly sinister. Plus, it leads up to one of the most satisfying whodunits in the canon.

4) The novel containing the best murder method

I cannot lay claim that Christie is a major innovator in the use of weaponry. But she clearly knows her chemistry, through her wartime experiences in a hospital dispensary, so it makes sense that murder by poison would be her preferred method. In this case, variety is the (deadly) spice of life, and the author took care not to depend on the reliable box of rat poison lurking under the sink or in the garden shed. Hat paint, thallium, digitalin and belladonna, among others, all find their place within the pages of Christie’s work.

In Murder Is Easy (1939), a fiendish serial killer utilizes a variety of prosaic methods to dispatch one villager after another. An elderly lady susses out the culprit’s identity and rushes to London to inform Scotland Yard, only to be cut down in a hit-and-run “accident.”

That’s not my favorite murder method, of course. You see, the old lady left behind this cat . . .

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5) The novel containing the best motive

One of my favorite Christie’s, After the Funeral (1953) is the last great Poirot novel she wrote: a family of eccentrics (but not too eccentric), a fabulous hook (“But he was murdered, wasn’t he?”), a subtle weaving of clues and some stunning misdirection . . . everything works beautifully. But the best moment is the reveal, when we learn what motivated the killer’s evil plan. It is both chilling and hilarious, the one time you can legitimately describe Christie as a “cozy” writer and get away with it!

6) The novel containing the most stunning surprise ending

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Here again, there are many strong candidates from which to choose. Christie, more than perhaps any other mystery writer, made it clear that anybody was capable of murder: the narrator, the police investigator, the series detective, the romantic interest, everybody did it, even nobody did it.

Her selection of the murderer in Crooked House (1949) is perhaps the most startling of her career. She isn’t the first to go to this dark place; one of Ellery Queen’s early novels tried something similar. But Queen ramps up the atmosphere to almost ridiculous heights, while the horror in Crooked House emerges out of that middle class normalcy she established so well. Historically, we are out of the margins of the Golden Age, where order is completely restored at the end of the novel. Christie has survived two world wars; society is not so easy to put back together. Here we witness how the pollution of murder affects a family, and while truth will out in the end, the toll on the family is devastating. Each surviving member of the Leonides clan must take some responsibility for the dead and figure out how to go on living.

7) The most Carr-like Christie

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I could have gone with one of the few “impossible crime” tales that Christie created, but I chose to save that comparison. (See #9 below.) Then there’s tone. JJ makes a good case above about the point where Christie and Carr veered in tone, and it’s right about this time. It’s another reason comparing a 1930’s Christie with a 1940’s Carr last week was a challenge.

I went with Cards on the Table (1936), a novel that shares a lot of the other qualities of a Carr story. The crime is not an impossible one, but it is audacious: four people are “locked together” in a room with their host, and a murder is committed without any benefit of cover, except a psychological one – the suspects were focused on their bridge game. The cast is small, as befits a Carr novel. The events of the present are directly related to the sins of the past, another Carr trait. The interplay between the four sleuths provides a number of Carr-like consultations between sleuths that propounds and dashes one theory after another and provides great humor in the form of Mrs. Ariadne Oliver. Finally, the novel moves from one solution to another, constantly twisting and surprising us in ways you didn’t think possible in a case where only one of four could have done it!

8) The one you should avoid (unless you’re a purist and/or like to suffer . . . )

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Surprisingly, I did not pick Christie’s last written novel. I selected Passenger to Frankfurt (1970). No doubt Postern of Fate is a worse book. At least some of Passenger makes sense. But Postern, which I admit I’ve only got through once, at least provides a coda to the forty-eight year saga of Tommy and Tuppence Beresford. The air is bittersweet, as the elderly couple’s ramblings through their final home include reminiscences of past joys and triumphs. Then the mystery intrudes and makes no sense at all. Still, you can’t deny that the novel is stuffed with a sense of history and an air of melancholy for what we are about to lose forever – a great writer.

Passenger to Frankfurt, by contrast, is just ridiculous. Worse than that, it’s boring.

 

9) The Christie that Carr would have made better if he had written it

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Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (1938) is a perfectly fine Christie with a good locked room murder, an odious victim, assorted family members, and a surprise ending. I think, however, had Carr gotten his hands on this one, the impossible crime element would have been stronger, the overlarge family would have been cut down at least by half, and the atmosphere surrounding the Lee Family Christmas would have been far more ominous, in contrast to the Jovian humor of its sleuth, Dr. Gideon Fell. The choice of killer would remain the same, and frankly, I can’t remember Carr ever choosing this sort of character for his murderer. I would be most excited to see how he handles it.

Interestingly, Carr super-fan Paul Halter did this very thing in a book whose title I will not reveal here. I will say, however, that this novel is the most Christie-like Carr homage of Halter’s I have yet read . . . and one of the few I actually enjoyed. So I know I’m onto something here!

10) The one you must read in your lifetime if you only read one Christie

Is there any doubt? Ten Little What-have-yous, aka And Then There Were None (1939), is one of the greatest murder mysteries, or thrillers, or suspense novels, or whatever you want to call its, ever written by anybody anywhere. Everybody should read And Then There Were None.

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JJ disagrees, and I understand his point. Christie’s greatest gift was her skill at misdirection, and that is pretty much absent in ATTWN. For that, go read Evil Under the Sun, or After the Funeral, or A Murder Is Announced, or Mrs. McGinty’s Dead, or dozens of others. I took this category differently. Some people could care less about Agatha Christie (yes, Virginia, there are bad people in the world!), but still they should read ATTWN because it is the epitome of a certain kind of book that others have tried before or since. Nobody did it better.

Well, there you go, and I hope our choices have provided further insight into the Mistress and Master of the Genre, as well as our personal relationships to them. At this point, I invite any reader here to copy/paste all or part of the template provided below to the comments section and give us your choices (you may focus on Christie, Carr, or mash ‘em up together!)

And we would love if you come up with new categories! Just suggest them, and we will do our best to offer up our choices. Gosh, if enough ideas present themselves, we just might have to create a sequel to this sequel!

THE TEMPLATE

  1. Most overrated novel
  2. Most underrated novel
  3. The novel containing the best hook
  4. The novel containing the best murder method
  5. The novel containing the best motive
  6. The novel containing the most stunning surprise ending
  7. The most Carr-like Christie (or the most Christie-like Carr)
  8. The one you should avoid (unless you’re a purist and/or like to suffer . . . )
  9. The Christie that Carr would have made better if he had written it (and vice versa)
  10. The one you must read in your lifetime even if you only read one Christie/Carr

 

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71 thoughts on “CHRISTIE/CARR SCATTERGORIES

  1. What sterling work gentlemen, and the perfect companion piece to the head to head battle, I have learnt so much hear and been excited to read so much it’s crazy!

    The books that would have been better if written by each other was a really interesting category and i categorically agree with both of them – although I did really enjoy HPC (it being one of the very early locked room and detective novel I read). Though as you both said, Carr would have shaped HPC better, but Christie would have redacted much of The Blind Barber. I still haven’t finished it, the farce is just too much!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The solution to Blind Barber is very clever, that’s the annoying thing; it just comes at the end of a thoroughly average-to-annoying book. But, well, he judged the comedy far better in virtually everything later on (until the later Merrivales, where I’m fairly sure he just wanted to tweak the Old Man’s nose, by thunder), so I’m imagining he either went deliberately overboard or realised the folly of such an undertaking once done.

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  2. I really enjoyed this Brad (and JJ), so great many thanks and agree with most of it (especially the Christie section, know exactly what you mean about CROOKED and the Queen book in question, which is also wonderful). Can’t really agree JUDAS is overrated – HOLLOW MAN maybe, but I do think JUDAS is pretty much stupendous. It is the one I usually lead with when trying to convince a newbie (which I did, just last weekend). Not sure sure what happened to THE EMPEROR’S SNUFFBOX as it doesn’t seem to get any sort of mention, but I often felt it was somewhat Christie-like. But then I just think Carr was the best and that is that! And by jingo you are so right, SHE DIED A LADY and GREEN CAPSULE and so just so awesomely good

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, yeah. I know everyone else loves TJW, but then ain’t that the very definition of “overrated”? 😉 I always feel Snuff-Box is very highly regarded, but maybe I’m wrong in that — certainly it seems to warrant regular mention,. Not read it myself, though, so I can’t judge just yet.

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    2. Yes, I know you prefer Carr, Sergio, but I still love you. I have heard the Christie-like references to EMPEROR’S SNUFFBOX before; how fortuitous that I have never read this one AND that I picked up a used copy in a local bookstore only a few months ago. I have so much exciting summer reading coming up!

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  3. I think JJ got the order of “Blind Barber” and “Eight of Swords” mixed up, no?

    You’ve both done very fine work here, gentlemen. I took up the challenge, but not in the way you intended, Brad. (At least I don’t think so.)

    Instead of doing my own list of Carr/Christie, I’ll apply the categories to Ellery Queen. Simply because I feel EQ gets somewhat overlooked these days: Christie is forever and always gonna be held as the template and pinnacle of the mystery genre, and Carr seems to be the darling of today’s GA reader (yes, he’s great, but he’s not the be-all and end-all of mystery writing).

    So, without further ado, here’s the categories as I would apply them to Mssrs Queen:

    Most overrated novel

    “Calamity Town”. I considered choosing “Ten Days Wonder” instead, because it’s so overwrought, but it does take some critical drubbing as well, while CT gets plus signs from most everyone. I agree that Wrightsville is a fine invention and the cousins Queen handle that part very well. But the mystery… There’s hardly a mystery here, is there? It’s super obvious, really. At least if you’re somewhat well versed in mystery reading. By all means, if this is one of your very first mystery novels, you’ll likely be bamboozled. But this is nowhere near the top of the Queen ouevre.

    Most underrated novel

    Perhaps “The Four of Hearts”? There really is a fine mystery at the heart of it (pun very much intended). Coming in the middle of the Queens’ 2nd period (also known as those Hollywood stories), this novel never gets much positive criticism, but I have to say that I’ve always enjoyed it. I can see that there are parts of the novel that are of lesser quality (that “romance” has never seemed genuine), but on the whole the novel is a rewarding experience.

    Another contender is “The Finishing Stroke” (or as I like to call it, to bring it more in line with the early novels that it imitates, “The Phoenician Stroke Mystery”).

    The novel containing the best hook

    In “The Egyptian Cross Mystery” Ellery and his father are out riding in Ellery’s car when they suddenly get caught in a huge fire and get chased up a mountainside into a dead end. And of course there’s a house there where they get invited – and of course a murder happens that very same night… Now EQ has to solve a murder AND ensure that they don’t all perish in the flames.

    The novel containing the best murder method

    I don’t think the murder method was ever the main thing about an EQ mystery, and I’m not sure that it’s really the BEST murder method, but I think “The Egyptian Cross Mystery” features a very wonderful and memorable murder method. I mean, who can forget a headless crucified corpse?

    The novel containing the best motive

    In general the motives of Queen novels are quite humdrum and plain ordinary. Or they’re based on the culprit’s insanity. “The King is Dead” has what is probably the most admirable motive, however I’m not sure it’s the best. And say what you will about “The Devil to Pay”, but it’s a very human motive.

    The novel containing the most stunning surprise ending

    “The Tragedy of Y” (as by Barnaby Ross), or “The Murderer is a Fox”. Both are very memorable, though I know there are some who think the first is ludicrous.

    The most Carr-like Christie (or the most Christie-like Carr)

    This category has to be changed a bit, so let’s just find the most Carr-like Queen AND the most Christie-like Queen instead.

    Most Carr-like: Probably “The Greek Coffin Mystery”. Boxes within boxes, solutions within solutions, an oppressive atmosphere in the Khalkis home… Pretty Carr-ian to me.

    Most Christie-like: “There was an Old Woman”. If you base your mystery on a nursery rhyme, then you’re automatically writing a Christie-ish mystery.

    The one you should avoid (unless you’re a purist and/or like to suffer . . . )

    “The Last Woman in His Life”. I guess the authors had their hearts in the right place, but they didn’t quite get it,did they? If “The Tragedy of Y” can be called ludicrous, I don’t know which description to give to this novel.

    The Christie that Carr would have made better if he had written it (and vice versa)

    Again, we’ll change this round a little bit.

    The Queen novel Carr could have made better: “The Chinese Orange Mystery” would have benefitted from some Carr-ian touches. There’s a fairly good impossible crime at the heart of it, but with Carrs expertise I think it could have been improved a lot.

    The Queen novel Christie could have made better: “The Dragon’s Teeth”, maybe? The revelation of the murderer is quite a letdown here, and I think Christie would have tightened up the whole thing so it doesn’t feel quite so much like a deus ex machina.

    The one you must read in your lifetime even if you only read one Queen

    The aforementioned “The Greek Coffin Mystery”. Wow!

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    1. Wow! Christian!!! I’m just . . . I got so excited when you did this! Thank you so much! Queen formed the third in my triumvirate of greatness, and I feel I want to do the same thing now, but I largely agree with your answers. I WOULD replace CT with Ten Days Wonder. I admit I read CT when I was pretty much just starting out, and it got to me emotionally; still, I know what you mean about the mystery aspect of it being . . . less than. But Ten Days Wonder often strikes me as an example of authors submitting to some of the same hubris as the characters they created. (Fourth Side of the Triangle tries to go to the same place as, indeed, does a lot of the later Queen writing. They really had a megalomaniacal bee in their bonnets!)

      I know I owe Four of Hearts a re-read. I didn’t love it the first time, and I’m a “hooray for Hollywood” kind of guy. You got the title wrong on one: it’s The Siamese Twin Mystery that has that wonderful hook (and, I think, humanizes Ellery for the first time.) I wouldn’t call Tragedy of Y ludicrous so much as overwrought. The Murderer is a Fox handles a similar shock with such restraint. It might be the best Wrightsville novel, dealing with PTSD, past crimes, and such. I would almost call it the most Christie-like Queen as it reminds me, emotionally at least, of Five Little Pigs. But I totally get your reference to There Was an Old Woman, a favorite of mine.

      I’ve written myself about Last Woman. Yes, perhaps the Queen’s hearts were in the right place, but they did damage anyway, at least to young men like myself who read it. And that dying message . . . talk about ludicrous! I always chuckle mirthlessly when I think about it. Better to savor The Greek Coffin Mystery . . . ah, there is a fine wine indeed!

      It’s a fine list. Thanks again for posting it! We should have lunch sometime! 🙂

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      1. But…but in The Blind Barber they’re on a boat from the US to the UK, and in 8os Fell gets off a boat from the US at the very start…

        Oh, wait, Fell’s not on the boat in TBB. Just remembered. Dammit.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks for clearing this up for me. I had this precise problem when I recently reviewed The Eight of Swords and finally had to settle for, “Well, they must have been written within months of each other.” Which is true, but it’s best to have the facts straight.
        Where does one find these exact months of publication? I came up empty.

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  4. I love your thoughts on the various Christies, Brad! I absolutely agree with you about ‘Best Hook.’ And I would sadly add Postern of Fate to your ‘Christie not to read unless…’ category. I say ‘sadly’ because I don’t much like to think of any of her work as being sub-par. But if we’re being honest…

    Anyway, an excellent post, for which thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think it’s important to make a distinction here, Margot, about “sub-par.” This is not a case of Christie in her prime turning out a stinker. There are weaker entries in her canon (THE BIG FOUR, BLUE TRAIN, DUMB WITNESS) but none of them are necessarily “bad” books. They just fade in comparison to better ones. But you could argue that the last couple shouldn’t have been published – or at least should have been edited. As far as we know, Christie wasn’t thinking straight by then. The idea of “any Christie sold is better than none” is based on greed, not on preserving the greatness of her reputation. But then, I guess her star was already fixed, and the publishers thought they could make an extra buck off of it. And, like I said above, I guess there is the charm in POSTERN of seeing Tommy and Tuppence one last time. If only they had been given a sendoff like Poirot and Marple got.

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      1. Well, if I’m to be nitpicky – which is my middle name – T&T had a fairly recent outing in “The Pricking of My Thumbs” when “Postern of Fate” was written. So it wasn’t all that necessary to bring them out again.

        It also ruins the spacing of T&T novels:
        19 years between the first two novels, 27 years between novel two and three, and then 5 measly years between the final two? Tut tut.

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  5. IMO, Roger Ackroyd being so much like the average crime novel until the solution is done on purpose. It helps hiding the solution. If the novel itself would have been more extraordinaly, people might expect a more extraordinaly solution as well.

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    1. Great point, HG, although I think that works more in hindsight. I’m not sure Christie set out to be as prosaic as she could be just so she could turn the tables on us. The characters in The Murder at the Vicarage, only four years later, come to life for us. I think she was still dealing with “types” in this one, not that she turned to them. But it works out exactly as you said.

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      1. I’m not 100% sure. If she had written Ackroyd 10 years later, I would be. But at this early stage of her career it’s of course also possible, that she was still working on her style.

        But the whole situation (always excluding the ending) reads like the early chapter of ABC Murders, where Hastings is listing all the clichés in a murder case and Poirot reprimands him for it. This means at the time she wrote ABC Murders Christie was perfectly aware of the clichés and stereotypes. The question is, if she was a few years earlier as well. I think she was.

        Because using such well known types and situations does give the readers a sense of security. Because the killer is perfectly fitting in and before the reveal the readers may think, that he or she is one of those well known types as well.

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  6. I also found the books that would have been better if the other one had written it to be the most interesting part of these lists. Gives you something to think about.

    Personally, I would’ve given Christie Death Turns the Table, a.k.a. The Seat of the Scornful, to rework. I know, I know. Some already consider it to be one of Carr’s best, straightforwardly told, detective stories, but Christie would eliminated its few flaws and elevated the book to classic-status.

    One of the flaws being the obscure clueing and the other the moral implications of the solution. It’s been a while since I read Death Turns the Table, but remember the murderer was allowed to go free while an innocent person was burdened with the public suspicion of guilt. Carr often allowed a murder to go (legally) unpunished, but this is only one where it came at the expense of an innocent person. So I believe Christie would have handled those aspects of the plot a whole lot better.

    I completely agree with your opinion that Carr’s treatment of Hercule Poirot’s Christmas would’ve been an improvement over the original. Such as a better and more prominent locked room problem.

    Thanks for this to the both of you!

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    1. Yes, it is the bizarre behaviour by Dr Fell at the end that spoiled Death Turns The Tables for me, though the puzzle is clever and it is an enjoyable read. He allows a ruthless killer to go scot-free ! I agree that Christie would have handled it better .

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  7. JJ, I think you were too harsh on Papa La Bas, I mean it’s not good but I don’t think I single it out as the one to avoid at all costs. Now The Blind Barber, on the other hand, I recall as an especially mangy thing…

    And Brad, well done on highlighting the respective virtues of A Murder is Announced and Murder is Easy.

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      1. I’m not sure I’d go that far, it’s been a four or five years since I read it myself and a lot of the detail is hazy at best in my mind, leaving me with an impression I suppose. As far as that goes, I’d say it didn’t blow my socks off and nor did it stick in my mind as really dire.

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  8. Great for a post guys and loved reading both of your suggestions. Here are my selections (mostly for Christie):
    1. Most overrated novel
    • Christie: The Moving Finger – starting with a controversial one, but for thing it is a frustrating and disappointing encounter with Miss Marple. Personally if it had been written as a non-series novel it would have worked better. But weirdly for me at any rate it still seems to be one a lot of people love.
    • Carr: The Hollow – on to safer territory this time but although it is clever I just think Carr has done equally if not cleverer ones which are better written.
    2. Most underrated novel
    • Christie: Nemesis – one of my favourite Marple novels. I love how the imagery surrounding Marple develops in this book and find it a shame that other people don’t rate it so highly.
    3. The novel containing the best hook
    • Christie: I was tempted to go with A Murder is Announced, but I decided to go with Towards Zero in the end, as I think it has a very intriguing hook which Christie works out well in the solution.
    4. The novel containing the best murder method
    • Christie: This was rather a hard group to decide for. I felt Death in the Clouds had the best murder method in terms of the amount of misdirection uses, but on balance felt that the murder methods in Five Little Pigs, Towards Zero and The Pale Horse were more chilling and ingenious.
    5. The novel containing the best motive
    • Christie: Again another hard group to decide for. Whilst the motive in After the Funeral is truly wonderful for its bizarreness, I think Curtain had a more chilling motivation and I also liked the one in The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side, due to its poignancy.
    6. The novel containing the most stunning surprise ending
    • Christie: Crooked House – like you suggest Brad this ending has a surprising killer revealed and the way the case is resolved is brilliantly unsettling.
    7. The one you should avoid (unless you’re a purist and/or like to suffer . . . )
    • Christie: Passenger to Frankfurt. At least Postern of Fate had the Beresfords to make up for the poor plot, but Passenger to Frankfurt barely makes sense.
    • Carr: In Spite of Thunder – My first Carr read and put me off trying others of his for quite a while afterwards.
    8. The Christie that Carr would have made better if he had written it (and vice versa)
    • To go with one not already mentioned I feel like Carr could have done something more with the setup in Murder in Mesopotamia, adding to the atmosphere and character dynamics.
    9. The one you must read in your lifetime even if you only read one Christie/Carr
    • Carr: The Emperor’s Snuffbox. Carr provides his usual interesting puzzle but his characterisation skills are supreme and I love how the character dynamics play into the mystery itself.
    • Christie: Gosh trying to only pick one for this category is tricky. I think for readers who dismiss Christie as cozy or as dull and quaint I think something like ATTWN, Crooked House or Towards Zero would blow those misconceptions out of the water.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww, I love Moving Finger. I understand why you would say Marple isn’t needed here, although she wraps things up nicely. I just love the characters and how the anonymous letters are woven into the murder mystery. And I’m sorry, but I’m one of those who don’t love Nemesis, Kate. Great beginning and ending, with a cool motive that shows us Marple could be relevant and modern, but the middle section sags dreadfully like, well, like I imagine a bus tour of gardens would. Christie lost me when she presented a list of the bus passengers . . . and almost none of them mattered. I love the rest of your list, though! Thanks for playing; you will receive our home game as a prize!

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      1. I’m with you: The Moving Finger is a great book. Sure, Marple is kinda chucked in, but it’s wonderful in every other regard as far as my tastes go.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Nemesis could have been one of her best books, if she had written it a few decades earlier. Because the plot is pretty good. But sadly, she wrote it when she was way past her peak, and it remains a could have been.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. On the subject of overrated Marples: I have a distinct memory of The Body in the Library being decidedly pedestrian, and I have become increasingly sure that it’s only because the phrase became synonymous with the genre (which came first?) that the book remained popular by association.

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      4. From Christie’s later works, The Pale Horse and Endless Night are mentioned the most. And it’s unfortunate that Nemesis isn’t included because as a mystery, it is very original. One of Christie’s most memorable scenes is the confrontation in the end between Miss Marple and the murderer. But as you said Brad, the middle section does sag indeed and the writing becomes repetitive and wordy The story is in need of better editing. I did like reading Miss Marple’s thoughts, getting a glimpse into her mindset, but when it comes to scenes such as the one from the inquest as the witnesses go over the incident with Elizabeth Temple, I felt was best omitted. That scene could have possibly been better written. I did like the scene between Miss Marple and Archdeacon Brabazon but I felt that the solution was revealed before we even got to the end and I think if you read it carefully you’ll see just how you can easily come to the conclusion of the mystery, but nevertheless, it doesn’t take away from the chilling motive of the crime. Nemesis could easily have been one of Christie’s best later works if it had better tightening and polishing. I found the Bradbury-Scott sisters far more interesting than the list of bus passengers, apart from Elizabeth Temple and Professor Wanstead. They left the other ones far in the dust. Though Nemesis has its flaws, it’s one of my faves but this story had so much potential to be better written then it did, but it’s a good end to the Miss Marple series (if you don’t consider Sleeping Murder her last one since it was written during Christie’s prime) as she gets her reward for solving the case.

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      5. @armchairreviewer: I’m pretty sure the Genre trope came first. Christie made fun about a body found in the library in at least two books that were written a few years before “Body in the Library” (Cards on table and ABC Murders).

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    2. Gosh, Christie is more than just a cozy writer. I think for anyone to label her as cozy needs to re-read her books again. One thing that Christie never does in a mystery is play it safe. She makes anyone and anybody the killer and if a child is a victim, then a child it is. She’s not afraid to be realistic in that regard. She’s not afraid to show how a person can have two different sides, showing a stereotypical side and showing that there’s more than meets the eye. A lot of mysteries written today are cozy and they play it safe with their fluffy, bunny rabbit book covers and stories in which mysteries go down like cotton-candy then a satisfying meal of meat and potatoes. Christie is cozy in one aspect with her English village settings but that’s about it.

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  9. Here are my suggestions. I’m doing them only for Christie, because it’s very hard to get any Carr books here and I haven’t read any. I’m planning to change this for a very long time, but so far I haven’t. I’m therefore ignoring the questions like “most Carr-like Christie”.

    Most overrated novel: Cards on the Table

    It’s not a bad book in any sense, and it’s not that popular (compared to some other ones). But as I happen to like all her best known books a lot, this one comes closest. My main problem is, that neither of the four suspects are all that interesting. I suppose it was her first attempt to reduce the number of suspects and give them more depth, but it works much better in some later novels like Five little Pigs. In fact, I think that even in novels like Death on the Nile or A Murder is announced, where the number of suspects is much higher, most of them are more interesting. And since the element of surprise is diminished, as Christie admitted herself in her prologue, the characters are crucial in this one.

    Most underrated novel:

    Seven Dials Mystery. It has a few of her more annoying thriller elements, especially that Bundle doesn’t achieve much. But the turn around in the end is brilliant and there’s a fair clue to the killer.

    The novel containing the best hook:

    Honestly, I think it’s Third Girl, with the girl telling Poirot, that he’s too old. It’s a pity that the hook is the best thing in this book.

    The novel containing the best murder method:

    The ones where they dare to do it in front of other people, who didn’t realise it. Especially Death in the Clouds and Cards on the Table.

    The novel containing the best motive:

    Murder on the Orient Express

    The novel containing the most stunning surprise ending:

    Roger Ackroyd

    The one you should avoid (unless you’re a purist and/or like to suffer . . . ):

    Because Postern of Fate and Passenger to Frankfurt are easy choices, and indeed both truly weak, I’m going to say the Big Four. If only because Poirot has neve rbeen mor eout of character than in this book.

    The one you must read in your lifetime even if you only read one Christie:

    Easily And then There Were None

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    1. Thanks for playing, hg! If enough folks take part, it’ll be interesting to see the variety of answers! And you really should rectify being strangers with Carr. You have a lot of wonderful discoveries to make there!

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    2. Completely agree with your first two choices — never got the popularity of CotT, and it’s one book that wobbles and wanders all over the place. And for something that purports to be a psychological examination of crime…well, to catch the criminal in the way they do is…beyond infuriating.

      And Seven Dials has many of my favourite aspects of Chritie’s work, even if — as you imply — she never quite got the thrillerish elements of her books correct. I love it, it’s among my favourites, and probably in my top ten Christies.

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  10. JJ – By the time Christie wrote TBitL in the 1940’s, she was definitely playing on a well-worn cliche. This is definitely a book where the hook exceeds all that follows. It’s like after setting up the most conservative of mystery tropes, she wanted to dash all that. The result feels stretched out and vaguely disappointing.

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    1. It might be interesting to go back and reread this in light of all the GAD reading I’ve done since, however. Dammit, I seem determined to just chase my own tail when it come to these books…

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  11. I’ve been enjoying this colloquy and the associated comments so much — thank you all. This is precisely the kind of thinking about Golden Age detective fiction I most enjoy, where the relative qualities of different authors are compared and contrasted. I haven’t been blogging much lately, but I may just take on this challenge and see what I can do!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Noah, Since you are one of my blogging idols, I can only say, “Please write more!” But I know it must be done out of pleasure, so join in wherever you like if it pleases you. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  12. The following are references to Carr in Agatha Christie novels:

    The Clocks (Chapter 28): Hercule Poirot says, “If I observe that a dog has not barked when he should bark, I say to myself, ‘Ha! A Sherlock Holmes crime!’ Similarly, if the corpse is found in a sealed room, naturally I say, ‘Ha! A Dickson Carr case!’

    Evil Under The Sun (Chapter 8): In the bookshelf of Linda Marshall’s room , Hercule Poirot finds The Burning Court by John Dickson Carr.

    The Body In The Library (Chapter 6): Peter Carmody says that he has autographs from Dorothy Sayers, Agatha Christie, Dickson Carr and H.C. Bailey.

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  13. Ugh, you just had to post this now. I’m out the door on a several day trip and I’ll only have my phone, which is no fun to use for lengthy posts. So now I have just a few minutes to reply to what is probably both of your most comment worthy post ever?!?!

    Who needs top 10 lists when you approach it this way? This is definitely much better, although each of your questions arguably deserves its own in depth blog post.

    For obvious reasons, I can only comment for Carr.

    Most overrated novel – She Died a Lady
    Excellent premise, jaw dropping finale, but there are a lot of others that deserve the same limelight that this title receives.

    Most underrated novel – The Witch of the Low Tide
    If you love Carr’s historical details, this is among the best, plus it boasts a strong mystery. It definitely has a weak point, but I chose it because it seldom receives a mention. I was really tempted to choose The Unicorn Murders, which has a weaker overall story but has a jaw dropper of a puzzle and solution.

    The novel containing the best hook – The Judas Window
    The canonical locked room set up. Enough said.
    Given that this is Carr, it was really hard to choose, as he has so many excellent hooks. I was tempted towards The Red Widow Murders, The Problem of the Green Capsule, or Seeing is Believing.

    The novel containing the best murder method – The Four False Weapons
    Given the various false weapons, the actual murder method is absolutely delightful.

    The novel containing the best motive – The Bowstring Murders
    I struggled a bit to pick this one and could perhaps do better given more thought.

    The novel containing the most stunning surprise ending – The Burning Court
    I won’t comment, because it is that surprising. The Emperor’s Snuff Box probably takes second place.

    The most Carr-like Christie (or the most Christie-like Carr)
    I can’t comment on this one.

    The one you should avoid (unless you’re a purist and/or like to suffer . . . ) – The Lost Gallows
    This qualifies only on the “unless you’re a purist” point – there is no suffering. I’m sure Carr has weak later year novels, but I’ve yet to encounter them. This is the only work by him so far that really left me wanting, but it did have some fine moments.

    The Christie that Carr would have made better if he had written it (and vice versa) – My Late Wives
    Admittedly, I can’t quite comment. However, I assume that Christie could play a story out a bit better than Carr, and this is a brilliant premise that could have used just a bit of a lift in the delivery

    The one you must read in your lifetime even if you only read one Christie/Carr – The Problem of the Green Capsule
    Carr’s best story by a mile. There are others that may excel in other points, but this has all of the trappings. The House in Goblin Wood is tight competition, but it is a short story, and there is that damn banana peel scene…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m so jealous of you, Ben! You have a whole world of Agatha Christie to discover. In a few years, I hope you’ll come back to this post and put up your Christie list! 🙂 Thanks for playing!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Regarding The Body In The Library by Agatha Christie, the genre trope certainly came before this book. In fact, in the foreword to this book, Agatha Christie herself refers to it as the cliche of detective fiction. I also quote from the Miss Marple short story Greenshaw’s Folly:
    “It’s been a wonderful afternoon,” sighed Horace as they walked home. “Really, that place has everything. The only thing the library needs is a body. Those old-fashioned detective stories about murder in the library—that’s just the kind of library I’m sure the authors had in mind.”
    The trope was actually started by Anna Katherine Green in her book The Leavenworth Case (1878) and again used by her in The Filigree Ball (1903)

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hmmm, I wonder if this trope of a body in the library still used today by modern mystery writers. I think as long as there is a fresh take on the story itself than using this trope device shouldn’t be a problem. Christie used the device and turned the story into one of her darkest ones written.

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  15. Here are my quick responses for Christie. May elaborate more later (and include my Carr list)

    Most overrated novel – A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED. I’ll admit book has some merit, but I can’t understand all the shouting, as I feel it is just another replay of the END HOUSE gimmick, and a not particularly well disguised one at that.

    Most underrated novel – Used to be FIVE LITTLE PIGS or AFTER THE FUNERAL, but lately they’ve been receiving the attention they deserve. Maybe THREE ACT TRAGEDY– the motive for the first murder is a (retroactively satisfying) masterstroke. I also I find BY THE PRICKING OF MY THUMBS intensely memorable in its creepiness.

    The novel containing the best hook – Though it’s not a favorite of mine, yes, THIRD GIRL is amusing with its hook (Carla Lemarchant’s “Oh, that too.” has a similar effect, in a much better book). THE MURDER IS ANNOUNCED hook is great, too, though as mentioned I feel it’s ruined by murder mystery solution 101A.

    The novel containing the best murder method – there are probably much better answers but, I’m not all that impressed by the book, THE MYSTERIOUS AFFAIR OF STYLES has an ingenious method.

    The novel containing the best motive – Probably THE MIRROR CRACK’D, which is why it is the one PERIL AT END HOUSE variation I find particularly deceptive.

    The novel containing the most stunning surprise ending – Well, I find the ones with the most surprising endings also the most fragile (therefore not my favorites), as consideration of the possibility often gives the whole game away. That said, if you don’t latch on to the possibility ahead of time, I’d say it must go to either THE MURDER OF RODGER ACKROYD or MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS.

    The most Carr-like Christie (or the most Christie-like Carr) – I agree, CARDS ON THE TABLE.

    The one you should avoid (unless you’re a purist and/or like to suffer . . . ) I’ve avoided PASSENGER TO FRANKFURT due to reputation. I’ll take your word for it.

    The Christie that Carr would have made better if he had written it (and vice versa) – Carr has an ability to make me buy ridiculous solutions, so maybe he could’ve got me to believe MURDER IN MESOPOTAMIA a little more. Also, I think he would’ve given APPOINTMENT WITH DEATH a more detailed, interestingly clued and satisfying solution.

    The one you must read in your lifetime even if you only read one Christie/Carr – I consider DEATH ON THE NILE the greatest “characteristic” work of Christie’s…. and in many ways FIVE LITTLE PIGS is my favorite… but yes, I’ll have to say AND THEN THERE WERE NONE.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for playing, Scott. Everyone’s opinion is valid, but I can’t help but respond regarding A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED. The solution here is certainly a popular one, for Christie and many other Golden Age authors. The only author I can think of who NEVER did it was Erle Stanley Gardner! But one of Christie’s gifts as a writer is her ability to repackage the same ending in a totally different way. Witness the number of deadly couples in her books! The packaging of the two books is very different, as are the backstories and the motives for the real killings. PERIL AT END HOUSE is pretty much a country house mystery with a very posh, 20’s style roster of suspects, (none of whom come to life for me). AMIA is every bit the village mystery, and it’s given a specific historical context (post WWII) that is beautifully rendered AND an important aspect of the mystery. Plus, I love the villagers!

      Not surprisingly, it is PaEH’s ending that seemed obvious to me, whereas with AMIA, I was charmed and surprised. It all comes down to how we experience it!

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I think it’s sometimes the order in which we are exposed to these stories that makes the difference. I didn’t find it all that deceptive with PERIL AT END HOUSE either (or where I found it in stories by Marsh, Berkeley, Brand, Queen, and others). It got me in THE MIRROR CRACK’D FROM SIDE TO SIDE, though, despite the fact that I first ran into that one much later– because the motive makes the victim seem so convincingly a wrong target. Incidentally, Dr. Curran assured me that he’s convinced Christie knew nothing of the real-life incident on which people generally believe it was based.

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  17. Incidentally, I disagree about ATTWN lacking in misdirection. For a solution to be effective, it must provide both surprise and a sense of retrospective inevitability (paradoxical, apparently, as each would seem to negate the other). One of the reasons the solution to ATTWN works so well is that there is a very strong sense of retrospective inevitability based on the profession of the culprit (of COURSE that person would have done it). In order to surprise us despite that strong indication, she must have employ powerhouse deception devices. Of course, she employs what might be called the ultimate opportunity deception: one person who could not commit a crime is a person who is _____. But she doesn’t leave it at that– she even acknowledges the possibility of this kind of deception, so as to categorically dismiss it before actually employing it! Pretty brilliant, I say. I perhaps even prefer the way that Dudley Nichols and Rene Clair carried out this kind of categorical exoneration in the 1945 film version (though of course, they never could’ve thought of it without her lead).

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    1. Oh, Scott, I knew your lecture on surprise/retrospective inevitability would find its way to my blog (I even sprayed!!) Seriously, though, I probably misspoke and meant to refer to the traditional trappings of a Christie mystery, i.e., clues. There ARE clues – the murderer even lists them at the end. But they’re largely metaphorical. The only time I can remember people playing actual detective and sussing out information from the evidence provided are when the actual detectives discuss the situation near the end. They look at body placement and diaries and the like and figure out exactly that they CAN’T figure the whole thing out. You don’t need to give me the “fair play” talk; I know your feelings on that! But there is no moment when somebody is unmasked because somebody else figured it out. The murderer is left to their own devices for that because they realize how clever they have been and yet they’ve GOT to let someone (i.e., the reader) know!

      And while I find the Rene Clair version charming, it also rankles to see so much of this story played for comedy. That moment when all the men are peering out of doors at each other may be clever, but it feels all wrong, given everybody is a murderer who is about to get murdered.

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      1. I think you’re misunderstanding me, Brad. The only reason I brought up the surprise/inevitability thing again is to explain why I disagree with your statement that “Christie’s greatest gift was her skill at misdirection, and that is pretty much absent in ATTWN.” I was simply saying that the level of retrospection inevitability and indication is SO strong (due not to the three so-called “clues,” but almost entirely to the profession of the culprit) that it requires very strong misdirection to hide it, and Christie provides that misdirection not only with an extreme “opportunity” deception (the ultimate alibi, so to speak), but (more ingeniously, IMO) with a psychological categorical dismissal of that very same opportunity deception (Carr pulls off a similar deception for hiding the body in THE BURNING COURT).

        As for the “clues” presented at the end, I’ll go further than saying that they are merely metaphorical– they are not really clues at all in the true sense! For ultimately, all plot elements must be classified as truth, indicators of that truth (clues), or elements that disguise that truth (deceptions). Clues in a detective story are indicators of a truth that is being deliberately hidden (by the culprit or the author, or both). Thus, they are by definition inadvertent (at least on the part of the culprit). “False clues” (e.g. incrimination of another character) are not really clues as they do not lead to he truth– as part of the culprit’s deliberate narrative, they must be categorized as deceptions. And as clues left behind deliberately by the culprit– even those that indicate his own guilt– are part of his plan, they might just as well be false clues. Indeed, we have no way of knowing that they aren’t.

        After all, the only reason we are convinced by the “confession” at the end of ATTWN is because it IS at the end of the novel. We have no way of knowing it was actually written by the apparent culprit of the story (there is no expert verification of the hand-writing). It may all have been the work of an earlier “victim” (one whose legitimacy of death is only confirmed by journal entries) who carefully selected the presumed confessed culprit as scapegoat because of his thematically suitable profession, and because of his undoubted “ironic” innocence in the earlier crime of which he was accused– and then made sure to kill him so that his death would align with “red herring” in the poem, shooting him in the head in a symmetrical spot which might bring to mind Cain.

        That Mrs. Rodgers is one clever chick!

        I love the ’45 film (as you know). I understand the objections to its tone, but I don’t share them (I see the novel and the film as very separate entities which each work brilliantly, and the play as another separate entity which doesn’t). And on one point the film actually outdoes Christie in plotting deception– the way it presents its alibi deception immediately after categorically dismissing that type of alibi. I don’t know how conscious the decision was, but it was brilliant!

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      2. That is, I agree it’s lacking in clues, but not in misdirection. And lacking clues, if there’s anything that makes the solution feel satisfyingly inevitable–and I believe there is– it’s just that the murderer happens to be a ________.

        Liked by 1 person

  18. Such a wonderful article, and then the comments are sumptuous too – though I had to keep stopping to see if I had certain Carrs, and order a few (Christie I have them all, and know them all well.) Loved loved loved it. I don’t think I can add anything else right now – everyone has said it all – but am mulling over my own answers. This one should be turned into a book, or a round-table, or something…
    Great job, both of you.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Scott, I totally get what you’re saying. I didn’t misunderstand at all. The killer has the clearest connection to the stated motive of them all, and it is to Christie’s immense credit that we all don’t say, “Well, it has to be the __________ because of __________ . That, and the point you made before of Christie basically saying a clever murderer would do this, then it gets discounted, then the murderer does EXACTLY that . . . and we fall for it! (AND the killer even installs one of their metaphorical “clues” for us to ponder at that moment.) It’s a brilliant book, and my initial comment was meant to clarify that it is NOT the typical thing you see from Christie . . . even if, as you state, she uses her typical techniques.

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